If Adrian Peterson plays Sunday, even the most ardent Buffalo fans think he'll have a big day. Read on and find out why.
Brian Galliford is the head blogger over at Buffalo Rumblings, the SB Nation blog about the Buffalo Bills. They've had a difficult season, but they are a team that is less than 20 points from being above .500. This is a dangerous team that comes to the Mall of America Field on Sunday, and Brian was kind enough to answer a few questions about a team that we don't know a lot about, and haven't played since the Mike Tice era. Brian brings us some good insight about the Bills, so take a look at what he has to say.
Thanks to Brian and the good folks over at Buffalo Rumblings. I've answered some of his questions, and he's rolled a couple of them out, and will finish them up by Friday. Go on over there and check it out if you get a chance
DN: At first glance, 2-9 makes it seem like the Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL. But when I look at the results, you guys have been in every game, with the exception of Green Bay and the Jets. As a matter of fact, the Bills have lost those seven close games by a combined 35 points, or 5 points a game. The last three have all been three point losses, including the gut-wrencher to Pittsburgh. Is Bills WR Steve Johnson right-does Jesus truly hate the Bills, or is there a more earth bound explanation? Oh, and as a Vikings fan, I am perfectly willing to accept ‘Jesus Hates You', but you must be warned: If that is your answer, we will have to have a conference call with someone from Cleveland to find out who Jesus hates the most between the three teams. Just throwing that out there.
BR: I'll stick to the earth-bound explanation: the Bills are a well-prepared, gritty, lovable-loser team that just isn't talented enough to make plays in tight situations. Or, when the plays are there to be made, they drop the ball. Or trip over their own blockers. There just seems to be a sort of mental block about the players that prevents them from winning the tight games unless the other team's mental block is bigger (see: Detroit). All it'll take is one win against a good team in a tight spot to get the ball rolling in the other direction; they just haven't made that happen yet.
DN: It seems that the Bills don't have a lot of household names in terms of playmakers, other than Marshawn Lynch before he was traded. In his absence, neither Fred Jackson or CJ Spiller have seemed to have stepped up and filled the void. Was Lynch that much of a distraction that he needed to be moved? What does Buffalo need to do offensively on Sunday to get out of Minneapolis with a win?
Well first, I'll contest the idea that Fred Jackson hasn't stepped up: in his last three games, he has 462 total yards and five touchdowns. He's literally playing the best football of his life right now. Spiller, on the other hand, hasn't had much opportunity, and has also had an injury to deal with of late. He'll return to the lineup in Minnesota.
Lynch was not a distraction for this football team, though he did make it difficult for the Bills to get much rhythm out of any of their backs. He was traded because Buddy Nix wasn't comfortable moving him in April, then got a similar deal a number of months later.
Chan Gailey is an attack-an-opponent's-weakness kind of coach, so I expect them to come out firing against Minnesota's middling pass defense, just as they did against Pittsburgh's middling pass defense. They have a lot of trust in their protection schemes and Ryan Fitzpatrick's arm, and this is a pass-first offense. They don't need to do anything extraordinary to beat Minnesota: find some balance and rhythm, score a few points, and keep the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands.
DN: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (he went to Harvard with Matt Birk) is quietly having a very good year, and it seems that the Bills are ready to move on from the Trent Edwards era. Can Fitzpatrick be ‘the guy' to get Buffalo back to the right side of .500, or do you see the Bills looking at another QB in the draft?
Both the GM and head coach have given Fitzpatrick strong endorsements in recent weeks. They have a lot of confidence in Fitzpatrick, but they're also aware of his shortcomings. The chances are outstanding that Fitzpatrick has already been penned in as the 2011 starter, but if there's a quarterback they like at any point in next April's NFL Draft, they'll take him.
Fitzpatrick is 7-11 over two seasons as Buffalo's quarterback, and while his play has been good - and boy howdy, you'll have a hard time finding an easier quarterback to root for; watch him run block - I'm not in any way convinced that he can be a playoff-level quarterback. Though I suppose if David Garrard can make plays in the playoffs, so can Fitzpatrick.
DN: Buffalo's run defense is, ahem, pretty bad, to put it mildly. Is there any reason for Buffalo to feel optimistic that they can stop Minnesota's rushing attack on Sunday?
Nope. Buffalo struggles with big, physical runners in particular, so Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart will give them fits. Buffalo's been able to limit opponents' scoring totals by playing solid pass defense and making a play here or there, but it's a certainty that the Vikes have a big day running the football.
DN: What are the two most favorable match ups in terms of personnel (either individual or unit) for the Bills, and what are your keys to victory?
Despite his awful performance against Pittsburgh, I also like Stevie Johnson, even when he gets Antoine Winfield. Johnson is hard to prepare for because he has such a unique route-running style; he just gets open. Provided he's more focused and hangs onto the ball this week, I expect him to have another good game.
Kyle Williams is just as good as your two Williamses this season - if not better. He's been a dominant force inside for us, despite the poor rushing numbers, and he's a guy that the Vikings will move two or three linemen at on every snap. He creates some advantages for us on his own.
As I said earlier, I don't think it'll take an earth-shattering performance to beat Minnesota, despite their excellent overall talent. Take care of the football, keep Minnesota's offense as one-dimensional as possible, and be more efficient scoring points (the Bills kicked three field goals last week; more touchdowns are needed). All cliche, all tried and true, and clearly, all easier said than done, particularly on the road.
BONUS: If Buffalo and Minnesota ever meet in the Super Bowl, will you be watching the game from a 2012-proof bunker? I'm pretty sure I will be. Oh, and if you'd care to give a final score prediction for Sunday's game, that would be cool, too.
I'd be torn, that's for sure. More than any other team aside from Cleveland, I can identify with the Vikings because of the similar hardships. As for the final score, I'll go Bills 23, Vikings 17. With all due respect to your Vikes, the Bills are just straight-up due to win a game against a more talented opponent. (The Bengals don't count.)
Once again, thanks Brian. Here's to a good, hard fought, and injury-free game on Sunday.